The Picture Postcard Workflow Panel
Dan Margulis is internationally regarded as the leading authority on color correction. He is the author of Professional Photoshop, which, since its first edition in 1994, has become the unofficial bible of the prepress and printing industry. His groundbreaking book Photoshop LAB Color changed the face of professional retouching. In 2013, he released a new book, Modern Photoshop Color Workflow, describing how the techniques supported by the panel that you can load here fit into an expedited, high-quality color correction workflow.
Formerly a professional prepress manager with over 20 years experience heading electronics departments at high-end trade shops, he offered small-group, hands-on color correction classes in the U.S., Canada, and Europe, in four different languages. Now semi-retired, he continues to speak and teach occasionally.
In September 2001, Dan was one of the first three persons named to the Photoshop Hall of Fame of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals.
In 2007, he introduced a radical approach to color correction called the Picture Postcard Workflow (PPW). Instead of the traditional method of using one set of curves to adjust both color on contrast, the PPW has three main steps: one to eliminate color problems, a second to add contrast, and a third to incorporate pleasing color.
The original idea of the workflow was speed. There was need for a method of reaching high-quality results in five minutes or less. It was understood that there would have to be certain compromises in achieving this, as traditional professional color correction spends much more time on an image.
As it turned out, the PPW generally exceeded the quality of traditional methods. Something that's both faster and better attracts attention. The workflow has therefore been widely adopted by professionals. In March 2013, Dan published his first new book in several years, Modern Photoshop Color Workflow, describing the PPW (and the panel you're about to be invited to download) in great detal.
Since 2007, the PPW basics have remained the same but there have been constant changes in specific implementations. Many steps were reduced to actions, some easy, some complex. We have always shared these without cost. However, because these actions were constantly changing, distribution was difficult. We originally made each one available separately, updated as necessary it being up to the downloader to know what the current version is.
In September 2011, we released a major boost to productivity: a fully scripted panel that accesses all the actions and commands used in the workflow in a logical order. Each action can be played with a single click. The panel includes extensive documentation in PDF format for each of the many actions, as well as an overview of the entire PPW. Also, even though some of these actions involve fifty or more steps and would therefore completely fill the image history buffer, they have all been scripted to be considered a single history state, so that they can be cancelled with a Command-Z.
The panel enables curves adjustment layers that use the traditional Photoshop curves dialog and not the one introduced in Photoshop CS4. It also allows addition of a composite (merged) layer at any time without losing the original layers underneath.
In March, 2012, version 2.0 was released, with 2.1 coming out that May. Version 3.0 was unveiled in March, 2013, concurrently with the publication of Modern Photoshop Color Workflow. Version 3.3, with some less significant changes, was released October 16, 2013. After a public beta testing period, Version 4.0.5, the first to support Photoshop CC2014, was released January 1, 2015.
The panel now includes three “Hammer” actions: the Bigger Hammer, which has been around for a long time, and the new Lesser and Velvet Hammers. The three give quite an array of tools to handle images needing extra pop in their lighter areas. The Velvet Hammer has proven particularly useful in portraits.
The Sharpen action, renamed Sharpen 2015, allows two new options. One prevents sharpening of blue objects, useful for those whose work commonly involves skies. The second, called Soften Shadows, does what it says. The two come as layers, so it’s easy to limit their effects to certain areas.
The download includes an installer that loads the entire action set, full documentation, and the PPW panel. We believe that the actions work in any language version of Photoshop from CS1 on. The panel, however, cannot be used with a version earlier than Photoshop CS5 (although you can still download the actions and the documentation separately).
Panel installation is straightforward, but if you'd like a video showing how it's done, click here. Note: the installation requires the presence of an appropriate version of Adobe Extension Manager. That utility is automatically installed in Photoshops CS5 and CS6; however certain downloads of CC and CC2014 either don't have it or have an outdated version. If you are affected, check out the troubleshooting link in the next paragraph. It explains the problem more fully and offers a link to the free download at Adobe.
If you are still having trouble with the install and would like support from us, we need a lot of specific information. Click here to proceed.
THE PICTURE POSTCARD WORKFLOW PANEL
Concept by Dan Margulis. Scripting by Giuliana Abbiati. Documentation by Giuliana Abbiati, Alessandro Bernardi, Dan Margulis, and Marco Olivotto.
Revised January 1, 2015 (version 4.0.5)
Click here to download CS6/CC/CC2014 installer for Windows/Macintosh (requires Photoshop CS6, CC, or CC2014; if you have Photoshop CS5, use the link below; there is no current support for CC2015.)*
Click here to download CS5 installer for Windows/Macintosh (this installer works only in Photoshop CS5.)*
FOR USERS OF PHOTOSHOP CS4 AND EARLIER, AND OF PHOTOSHOP CC2015
Photoshops CS4 and earlier versions are not compatible with the PPW Tools panel. However, the base actions can still be used in any version at least back through CS1, although not with all the panel's functionality.
Photoshop CC2015: the following advice is as of 17 June 2015. CC2015 was released without prior notice to the developer community on 15 June. There were immediate problems with many extensions; as of 16 June Adobe announced that it was preparing a fix "as a matter of urgency" and advised those dependent on third-party plug-ins to avoid installing CC2015 until it arrived.
We have a means of installing a limited version of the panel in 2015 and will release it when Adobe posts its fix. However, a second bug in Photoshop has disabled the functionality of our Options panels. Pending a fix, users will be able to set preferences but not to work with Options. As we do not know when this fix will be forthcoming, for the moment our advice is that those dependent on the PPW panel should not plan to install CC2015. Meanwhile, CC2015 users can still use the actions and documentations just as users of CS4 and previous can.
The action set for version 4.0.5 can be downloaded here and, when unzipped, loaded into Photoshop's Actions palette.
The PDF documentation for all the actions in the version 4.0.5 set is available here.
NOTE: If you are using the panel, you don't need any of this, as it is installed automatically.
Other Resources and Links
- Books by Dan Margulis
- Descriptions of all Dan's books, with several miscellaneous articles.
- The Makeready Archive
- Dan's magazine column Makeready played a unique role in the development of Photoshop technique. It ran from 1993 to 2006—77 installments. This archive lists and describes all the columns, with many links with commentary from Dan.
- Applied Color Theory list archives
- A collection of some of the best threads from Dan's Applied Color Theory list
- An Italian-language site
- An Italian site that has translations of many of Dan's articles and information on his appearances in Italy.
- A Russian-language site
- A Russian site that has translations of many of Dan's articles and information on his appearances in Russia.
- The LAB Schematic
- A useful downloadable desktop graphic, prepared by Les De Moss, that illustrates the structure of LAB.
- Information about Dan's classes at Sterling Ledet & Associates
* While web links into this page are welcome, please don't copy the content to your own website or link directly to the files here. That way when files get moved around or updated on our site, your links won't break and our log files won't fill up with errors. Thanks.